Hiring a car isn't necessary, as Belgium has a good train network connecting its major cities, and besides, even its largest urban areas are easily walkable and bicycle-friendly.
There are direct flights daily with VLM Airlines (www.flyvlm.com) from London City and Manchester to Antwerp Deurne airport, four miles north of the city centre. BA and Virgin both fly to Brussels, which is about 30 minutes away by taxi - you may be able to get a special rate of around €50-€60 if you book the transfer through your hotel.
Eurostar takes two and a half hours from London to Brussels Midi, where you can catch a connecting train to Antwerp from the same station (you can book a connection through Eurostar's website, www.eurostar.com - Eurostar tickets are valid to/from any Belgian station). Antwerp's Central Station is a spectacular turn-of-the-century monument to the age of steam.
Country code for Belgium: +32. Antwerp: 03.
Antwerp by Nicholas Royle; The Good Beer Guide to Belgium by Tim Webb; Rubens by Gilles Neret; Tintin in Tibet by Hergé.
Do go / Don't Go
Antwerp is a year-round destination with a mild climate. Like many European cities, you'll find just as many tourists as locals in high summer. As Antwerp is a centre of fashion, you might want to time your visit to coincide with the start of the buying season (spring or autumn).
Belgium is a real treat for gourmands and Antwerp has its fair share of Michelin-starred restaurants. Seafood is particularly good, including shrimp, mussels, crab, skate and sole. A popular and delicious snack is moules frites, which pairs the mighty mussel with the world's finest chips. The city's sizeable Jewish district near the railway station means this is a good place to try kosher cuisine, too. There's also a dazzling array of Belgian beers, particularly the wonderful blond-style beers produced by the Duvel brewery, just outside Antwerp.
You can flag down taxis in the street, but you'll probably have more luck at a taxi rank. It may be easier to ask your hotel or restaurant to make a booking for you, or ring cab firm Antwerp-Tax (+32 (0)3 238 3838).
Service is normally included in restaurants, so a few coins will be considered sufficient.
Either pack lightly or bring an extra suitcase; odds are you'll be coming back from Antwerp with more than you came with after shopping all weekend.
Antwerp was Rubens' hometown, and his masterpieces fill the city; many of his works are displayed at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten) at Leopold de Waelplaats (www.kmska.be), along with those of other Old Masters, including van Dyck, van Eyck and Memling. Rubens' works can also be seen in several of the city's churches, including four huge altarpieces in Antwerp's Gothic cathedral on Handschoenmarkt. The Rubenshuis, where the painter lived, is also a major attraction (www.rubenshuis.be). Modern Antwerp's status as a style and design centre is reinforced by
Just outside the city, the Middelheim Sculpture Park is a restful revelation: Rodin's hulk-of-a-bronze Balzac and Henry Moore's regally organic King and Queen are among a fine collection of pieces imaginatively dotted around a tranquil 300-acre park (www.middelheimmuseum.be).
While the Meir is the main drag for high-street brands, dedicated followers of fashion should make for the vintage and designer boutiques on Nationalestraat, Sint-Antoniusstraat and Kammenstraat. Check out the flagships of home-grown fashion heroes Dries Van Noten and Véronique Branquinho. Verso, a glistening Harvey Nicks-style shopping emporium on Lange Gasthuisstraat, is as chic as the fashion it sells. Pi-Nuts boutique on Nationalestraat specialises in catwalk cast-offs, while Episode on Steenhouwersvest, Jutka & Riska on Nationalestraat, and Baby Beluga on Volkstraat stock vintage and accessories. For luxurious interiors goodies, try Flamant Dining on Lange Gasthuisstraat. Vrijdagmarkt, the Friday flea market off Hoogstraat, has been going strong for more than 500 years; its stalls are perfect for antiques lovers and bargain hunters. At the weekend, visit Theaterplein, where there's an excellent food market on Saturdays and a more general market on Sundays, as well as irresistible chips and waffles.
For a visual feast of guildhouses, gold statuary and ornate facades head to the Grote Markt in the heart of the Old Town; the beautiful Flemish Renaissance architecture of the Stadhuis (city hall) is a monument to 16th-century civic pride. The Brabo Fountain and the surrounding cafés are popular meeting places.
A short distance from the Grote Markt and the cathedral, Vlaaikensgang is a maze of 16th-century alleyways in the heart of the city centre. Hidden behind a small entrance at Oude Koornmarkt 16, this tucked-away oasis of calm is a great place to listen to carillon concerts drifting over from the cathedral bell tower. Concerts take place 20h-20h45 between May and September.
Late Jan 2007 saw the launch of Benelux fashion week, held in Antwerp (www.afashionweek.be). May Beginning on Whit Sunday, Sinksefoor is a huge funfair that runs for several weeks in southern Antwerp; the rides are fun, but the doughnuts are better. June The fashion graduate shows at the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Art highlight the city's considerable creative talents (www.antwerp-fashion.be). June Bieirpassie (Beer passion) Weekend (www.beerpassion.com) is held in the Groenplaats and showcases more than 100 beers. December Christmas fair in the Grote Markt, with stalls selling glühwein and traditional toys; there's also an open-air ice rink.